Updates from HEROES: Construction and Fall Plans

I hope you are all enjoying your summer.  We’ve now completed our first week of summer homework.  All of your students’ submissions from this past week have been graded, and your child has access to this week’s homework.  Any comments on your child’s homework submission can be viewed in the e-mail associated with your child’s account.  Please note, the bottom of this e-mail states that the remainder of the comments can be viewed by clicking a link.  We are aware that the link does not work.  The entirety of the comments can be viewed in the e-mail.  I’m still working on removing this erroneous link, but I’ve had to prioritize summer homework, parent e-mails, construction, and re-opening plans over this small code bug.  

 

 

This week’s homework is due on July 18, 2020.  It will be graded on July 19, 2020.  Any work submitted after midnight on July 18, 2020 will be graded the following Monday, July 26th.

Construction Updates

I know that everyone is anxiously awaiting updates regarding our September plans re-COVID-19.  Don’t worry, I’ll get to that too!  First, I’d like to take a moment to update everyone on some cheerier news!  Our construction has been progressing quite quickly.  Today is our 10th full day of construction.  The first few days of construction were dedicated to demolition or, as I like to call it, deconstruction.  We certainly didn’t take a wrecking ball to it as one might imagine when “demolition” is mentioned, but many tools were employed to entirely gut the building.  The walls, plumbing, electric, h-vac, floors, ceiling, doors, windows, and even the i-beams were removed!  We’re starting with a very clean cinder block box, and it looks much better now!

They even moved the electrical panel to the other side of the building.  We’re really getting rid of everything.  Everything Must Go! 

 

The i-beams were removed and replaced with laminated beams.  This allowed us to gain 8 inches of ceiling height.  It was quite a complicated job and required the construction of numerous temporary walls.  I wasn’t there to see it, but they actually brought the laminated beams in through the window openings!  I was there to see them installing one of the laminated beams.  Very cool!  From an engineering perspective, we now have an entirely new building! 

They also installed some of the doors.  One of the doors still has to be “cut.”  Another door remains uninstalled as they need some way to get this very cute baby excavator out of there! 

They started framing out the rooms too.  We can now see where each of the rooms and bathrooms will be.  It’s quite fun to stand in a “room” and imagine what class will be like in there!

On the tenth day of construction, they dug the trench for the plumbing.  

When all of the doors and windows are installed, we can re-face the building.  The windows should arrive this week.  I’m really looking forward to this part!  

 

Construction is progressing quickly and smoothly.  Aside from a window-versus-wall debate, we haven’t run into any issues.  (In case you were wondering how that ended, the wall won the war; the window will be removed.  I didn’t care much for that window anyway.) 

COVID 19 Updates

This past year has been a tremendous learning experience for me.  In all of my wildest dreams, I’d never imagined throwing my entire school online at the last minute, and I’d certainly never imagined being put in a position where I had to make decisions that, quite frankly, I think should be left to health experts.  Nonetheless, here we are.  I want to assure all of our parents and students that our number one priority is ensuring that your child is safe, happy, and healthy.  We also hope that we can make the changes for the coming year as stress-free as possible for parents and students.  After reviewing the recommendations of the state, the CDC, WHO, and the American Association for Pediatrics, we’ve decided the following: 

 

  1. At this time, Governor Murphy is allowing schools to re-open for in-person classes this September.  As long as that remains the case, we fully intend to open for in-person classes.  With the exception of our temporary online schooling this past spring due to COVID-19, we are not an online school, and we do not plan to be an online school.  We strongly believe that social interaction, classroom engagement, and a hands-on learning environment are integral aspects to education.  This philosophy is an integral aspect to who we are — what HEROES is, and it simply cannot be fully replicated online.
  2. While we hope that school will continue in-person uninterrupted for the 2020-2021 Academic Year, we understand that if the health situation changes in the area, Governor Murphy may ask schools to close for some period of time.  We sincerely hope that this is not the case, but we must also recognize that possibility.  With that in mind, we are using our summer to prepare for the unexpected.  We are preparing lessons and activities to be used in the event that we must move to distance learning for any period of time. 
    1. In the event that we must temporarily move to online learning, we will switch to a 1-hour per week online video chat, meeting at the first hour of your child’s regularly scheduled class.  Additional lessons and student work will be provided through our online learning management system.  Student work will be graded three-times-per week during distance learning in contrast to our regular one-time-per-week grading when regular in-person classes meet. 

COVID-19 Policies and Procedures

The state released guidelines for schools to reopen in September.  These guidelines allow schools a tremendous amount of flexibility, but among these guidelines, all schools must adhere to the following:

  1. Teachers and staff will wear face coverings.
  2. Students will stay 6-ft apart when possible.
  3. Students will be strongly encouraged to wear face coverings throughout the day; they will be required to wear face coverings when social distancing is not possible.  

With this in mind, we’ve begun developing our own policies and procedures for the upcoming year.  Please note, these policies and procedures are subject to change.  If the current health situation or recommendations from the state or health officials change, these policies may be forced to change.  

    1. Attendance: In the past, we’ve upheld a very strict attendance policy.  In light of COVID-19, we’ve re-evaluated this policy.  While we strongly discourage students from missing class for other activities or events, we also do not want parents or students to feel pressured to attend class when the student or a family member is feeling unwell.  If your child or a family member is feeling unwell, please do not send them to class.  Please contact us, and we will provide supplementary material for your child to make up the missed lesson(s).  
    2. Health Screenings: We will check each student’s temperature before they enter the facility using a touchless thermometer.  Students with a fever or presenting other symptoms of COVID-19 will not be permitted to attend class.
    3. Face Coverings:  All teachers and staff will wear face coverings at all times.  Students will be encouraged to wear masks throughout the class, but they will only be required to wear masks when social distancing is not possible.
    4. Social Distancing:  We’re fortunate to be arranging entirely new classrooms with COVID-19 in mind.  The NJDOE states that our classrooms can facilitate 15 to 16 students.  We’d originally planned on capping enrollment for each class at 10 students.  We’ve reduced our class size maximum to 8 students for the upcoming year.  This allows for adequate social distancing in the classroom.  Student desks will be “socially distanced.”  
    5. Ventilation: Our new facility has two classrooms and two brand new HVAC systems, meaning that air will not be circulated from one classroom to another.  Weather permitting, windows will be left open.
    6. Student Hygiene:  Students will be asked to sanitize their hands before entering the building.  Students will be encouraged to wash their hands frequently. Each classroom has its own handicap accessible bathroom, allowing for frequent handwashing with limited classroom interruption.  Each classroom will be equipped with hand sanitizer.  We are also asking that each student bring their own bottle of hand sanitizer for personal use.  This bottle will be stored in each student’s “supply backpack.”
    7. School Supplies: To reduce the number of shared items among students, each student will have a “supply backpack” with their name on it.  The supply backpacks will remain at our facility and will contain frequently used school supplies (pens, markers, colored pencils, etc).  You may be asked to provide some of the supplies for your child’s backpack.  Supply lists will be sent out in August.
    8. Shared Materials: The sharing of some materials is unavoidable.  The use of manipulatives and games are an integral aspect of classes at HEROES.  Any shared materials (game pieces, game boards, manipulatives, etc) will be sanitized at the conclusion of each class’s use.  After the use of any of these materials, students will be directed to sanitize their hands by either washing their hands or using hand sanitizer.
    9. Facility Sanitation: High touch surfaces (door handles, tables, desks, cabinet doors, etc) will be disinfected at the conclusion of each class period.  A deep cleaning will be conducted at the conclusion of each day.  So that each student can feel confident in the cleanliness of their own workspace, students will also be asked to wipe down their own work-space at the beginning of each class. This will be done in addition to staff cleaning.
    10. Paperwork: To limit the transfer of materials from our facility to your home, all paperwork and homework will be provided and submitted digitally using our online learning management system. 
    11. Library: Our library books will be available to students throughout the academic year.  Students will be required to reserve books in advance.  Their selections will be collected by staff and distributed to students at the conclusion of class.  Book returns will be left in boxes until the following weekend. 
    12. Parents: Parents will not be permitted into the building.  Based on what we know of COVID-19 thus far, COVID-19 is much easier transmitted among adults than children.  In order to limit the risk to the health of our students and staff, we will not be permitting adults into the building.  We realize that some of our parents drive from long distances and rely on our waiting area as a place to stay while your child is in class.  We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause you.  When weather permits, we will provide a covered outdoor waiting area for parents in close proximity to the building so that wi-fi may still be accessed.  

These policies and procedures are subject to change as we gain more information and guidance from the state and health experts. We thank you all for your understanding and patience during this time.  We also thank you for trusting your children in our care during these uncertain times.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out to me by phone at (732) 690-7991 or by e-mail at dvoit@NJgifted.org

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